The famously controversial Danish director, Lars Von Trier, has now begun to speak after his self-imposed dictum, I keep my mouth shut. After his disastrous joke about Hitler at the 2011 Cannes soon after his Melancholia was screened and he was declared persona non-grata, he decided not to utter anything in public. He went around with a band on his mouth. But Von Trier is now back in action and back to mouthing his favourite one liners - which are really jokes, but some may get offended, like half the world did after his Nazi comment. At a recent media gathering close to Bengtfors in Sweden, the auteur quipped “I chose Matt Damon and Uma Thurman because they obviously cannot read.” Cannot read?
Von Trier was on the set of The House That Jack Built -- a blood curdling 12-year saga of a serial killer, played by Damon. As Von Trier spoke to the press, his two main actors, Thurman and Damon sat on either side of him.
The helmer continued: “There were so many people we sent the script to, who said they would do anything to work with me, except on this script. And then there were two, who said yes and I asked, ‘are you sure?’ And they said, ‘yeah yeah yeah’. I think we should make a little test of their reading abilities.”
Von Trier has always been known -- ever since his first films like Europa Europa, Breaking The Waves, Dogville, Manderlay and so on -- for his dry humour -- which can often be caustic. Can one imagine even directors as celebrated as Adoor Gopalakrishnan or Girish Kasaravalli or Anurag Kashyap or Mani Ratnam taking the kind of liberty which Von Trier is so renowned for? Call Von Trier brazen or bold or just funny.
The House That Jack Built is a title that we would associate with a fairy tale. But this is no such story, and Von Trier has said that he hated stories about angels, witches, goblins and pretty little girls.
But on a closer examination, all of us who have grown up on such fiction will now realise that fairy tales were not just goody-goody. Cinderella had a wicked step-mother and step-sisters. Little Red Riding Hood had to confront the big bad wolf which had devoured her grandmother. Yes, there was the fairy godmother and the woodcutter coming to the rescue.
It is too early to know who would come to the rescue of all those potential victims of Jack in Von Trier’s plot. But we do know that the movie is set in the America of the 1970s, and travels a dozen years - when we see how Jack the killer (reminds one of Jack the Ripper, who killed prostitutes in the eerie nights of gas-lit London’s Whitechapel district in 1888) evolves. He almost makes it a fine art of murdering women. And Von Trier is well known for his brutally forthright manner of making cinema. His depiction of sex in works like Idiots and Nymphomaniac are classic examples of this.
“I don’t find anything especially interesting about serial killers,” Von Trier added. “It’s more the women. For some strange reason all the women I have been with have been crazy about serial killers. That might have something to do with me (!) Also, I thought I could fool people to go into the cinema. There are so many books and films and TV-shows about serial killers. But still I picked it up - of course I know I can’t do something drastically different but I had fun writing it.”
And now comes the bombshell, when he blurts out that there is a relationship between the “act of killing and the act of creating art...”Oh yes, you have to be a cynic to do both.”
It is rumoured that The House That Jack Built will be at Cannes in 2018, and Von Trier will be back on the Croisette with his caustic wit and innocent do-not-kill-me sheepish smile!
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